Stigma Fighters Teen

A place where voices are heard


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Kelley: My Story

6 years old and screaming for my daddy in the middle of the night because I’m having another nightmare.

8 years old and I’m having nightmares about Her constantly. She’s chasing me in every nightmare. I think she’s trying to kill me.

14 years old and I want to cut because I feel useless and trapped.

16 years old and my thoughts are becoming more and more suicidal.

I’ve had depression for about three years now. The anxiety’s been around for awhile longer. (As evident by the intense nightmares I experienced for years as a young child.) Living with these things means that I wear many masks with many different people, because hiding is the only way to stay safe from their questions. Because wearing my happy mask means they believe me when I say “I’m okay. It’s just been a long week.” I know lying is bad, but I’ve become so accustomed to it, I’m afraid what will happen when I tell the truth; when I say “No, actually. I’m not doing so well today.”

Wearing the masks doesn’t mean the flashbacks and anxiety aren’t still there. They are, and no one can help that. I can’t help that. That’s why the masks are here, to help me pretend that everything’s okay and trick nearly everyone else into believing the same.  (Sometimes I wonder if the masks just make things worse, though.)

There’s only one person in my life that I’m open with. They’re the only one I trust completely. They know about everything: The anxiety, the past trauma, the depression… And to be honest, they’re part of the reason I’m still alive and cut-free. Because they care about me, listen to me and help me get through the tough shit. It’s scary to think where I’d be today without that one special person. (Because I know where I’d be. I wouldn’t be feeling, much less breathing.)

But meanwhile, I will continue to lie to everyone else, because I’m afraid of what they might say if they knew the truth. And it’s easier to hide than to risk letting people know the truth and have them use it against me. There’s so much stigma around depression, anxiety, and so many other mental illnesses. Even in my own family, where depression is common (and I have a relative that’s possibly suffering from schizophrenia), it’s still not entirely understood by everyone. Sure, most of us are there for each other when we need it, but not everyone understands why X person is depressed or suicidal.

I wish things were different. That those of us suffering didn’t have to hide for fear of ostracization and judgment. Maybe one day, more of us can speak out and help fight the stigma. Because things do need to change, if only for the sake of reducing shame and saving more lives.

(To everyone reading this: Please remember you are loved. I know it’s hard to believe sometimes. I still struggle with feeling worthy of love. But you are a human being, a breathing, living human being with hopes and dreams and you deserve to have an amazing life. Your mental illness/illnesses is a part of you, but it isn’t all of you. Your mental illness doesn’t make you a bad person. You’re still pretty damn amazing. My Twitter DMs (@nanogeekette) are always open if you need a random internet stranger to confide in. <3)

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About Kelley:

I’m a badass, sixteen year old queer (bisexual-ish?) pixie. Dancing and writing are my two favorite artistic passions, and I hope that I can continue pursuing them for a long time. When I’m not in the studio or working on my blog, I’m babysitting my siblings and spending a lot (read: probably too much) time on Twitter.

Blogger: thepsychohaswritten.blogspot.com

Twitter: @nanogeekette


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Repercussions Of Speaking Up

The more I try to reach out to teens, the more I see how nervous people are about sharing their story. Because they are scared of the repercussions of speaking up.

I get it, I really do. I had the same fear a couple of years ago.

It’s one of those things where, if you talk about bullying, you worry that your bullies will see it and their anger make them lash out against you even more. Or even worse, someone else you go to school with see it and start bullying you for being week, so you then have to deal with even more bullying.

Or if you talk about depression, you worry your parents will see and be mad you haven’t talked to them about it, despite the fact you have tried time and time again and they just don’t hear you. They don’t see what you are trying to tell them. Not because they are bad parents, but simply because no parent really wants to think about their child being depressed in fear that they have done something wrong as a parent.

Maybe  you are scared that if you talk about being bipolar, the people around you will say you are just a “moody teen.”

I completely understand. I won’t pretend I haven’t faced some of those repercussions myself. Sadly, I have.

But what I think is truly sad about it is that we are silenced by these repercussions and our fear of them. It’s already sad that people truly don’t take teen mental health serious, but we aren’t even really able to talk about it because we are so scared that we will be bullied and treated poorly.

It’s sad that we can’t discuss what we go through without having to fear how people will treat us and if they will use it against us.


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TEEN LINE

Hello Stigma Fighters! TEEN LINE is a Los Angeles, California based teen-to-teen helpline affiliated with Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Our trained teens answer calls, texts (US only), and emails from around the world 6p.m.-10p.m. Pacific Time. Adult volunteers from Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services answer the helpline number all other hours, providing suicide prevention support.

Our TEEN LINE Listeners are the heart of what we do! We believe teens have the power to change the world. Teens who apply and are accepted complete an intensive 13-week training. Each session is devoted to a different topic such as suicide, depression, relationships, self-injury, bullying, sex, and more. Though these topics are important, we continuously practice empathy and active listening skills. It is important for our teens to offer a safe, supportive, and non-judgmental environment so teens can feel comfortable sharing what’s on their mind. No challenge is too big or small; the TEEN LINE Listeners are happy to help!

What else can someone expect when you call, text, or email TEEN LINE? We are confidential. Our Listeners are with you, as the name suggests, to actively listen. They do not offer advice and will not tell you what to do. Rather, teens are empowered to make decisions for themselves after they are informed about all of the options available. It is not our place to offer advice, as we cannot possibly account for someone else’s morals, values, or ethics. Each call, text, and email ends with appropriate resources.

Whatever you are going through, you don’t have to go at it alone: https://teenlineonline.org/talk-now/

Call 310-855-4673 or text “TEEN” to 839863 between 6p.m.-10p.m. Pacific Time

Not ready to reach out quite yet or curious to know more? Check out what some other teens have asked: https://teenlineonline.org/ask-teen-line/

Remember – no problem is too big or too small! We’re here to help! www.TeenLineOnline.org

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Mental Health and Perception: Marisa’s Story

There are numerous diseases of the brain that society has accepted to be actual illnesses. A lot of people don’t understand that mental illnesses are just as important as physical illnesses and deserve to be treated with just as much attention. I was one of these people. Until I was diagnosed.

I never realized the amount of ignorance and implicit bias that we as a society have towards mental health. We underestimate the importance of maintaining stable and healthy relationships with partners, friends, and peers. We unknowingly hold unrealistic standards for others, and try to label perseverance and effort when these things are a matter of perception.

Don’t get me wrong, It isn’t unhealthy or wrong to want things, or even to expect things until the things that we want or expect become excessive or unrealistic, for example; setting goals that are far out of reach, but to whom? Your perspective of ‘out of reach’ is your perspective. This is something we must learn. Perspective is everything. Especially when it comes to mental health.

The most common and implicit expectations that we hold in people usually go unnoticed and are unrecognizable to us. I have been interested in psychology ever since I figured out how thoughts lead to feelings which leads to actions, and that mental illnesses were not “all in my head” that they were real and chemical. Something I learned from my current psychologist.

I have been studying psychology and different disorders for months. I can’t help but be interested in something that really concerns me. I have also been observing and studying the #MHChat on twitter, and recently participated in the conversation, when discussing how positive thinking is essential to recovery but cannot simply cure a mental illness.

I was also invited to represent my school in the National Student Leadership Conference to study psychology and neuroscience, however because of financial issues, I will not able to attend.

Because I have chosen to work towards this particular career path, sometimes I can’t help but feel it has more cons than pros. For example, there is so much scattered research and there is not one definite answer to any question. Most questions regarding mental health have yet to be answered because we “don’t know”, also there is such a stigma around mental illnesses, so we are expected to suffer in silence or not suffer at all.

It’s quite difficult to suffer in silence, to pretend your problems aren’t real in public but to suffer so much at home. I’m the introverted yet overly friendly type. Most of the time I keep to myself, but I have a welcoming and positive aura, which attracts people to me, so I’ve heard. I’m a good friend and the kind that would drop anything to be there for someone but I’ve never been part of a particular friend group, I’m more of an outsider and the one that’s friends with the friend groups but not in them. It’s quite difficult for me to pretend my problems don’t exist to socialize and be friendly. No one at school knows that I started skipping meals in first grade, or that I spent 3 summers in a row imprisoned in my own depression, crying myself to sleep, that I quit cheerleading-something I’ve loved since I was a little girl, because of my anxiety. The only people who really know anything are the people who have been subjected to my horrible irritability and “moodiness” who assume that I’m ‘bipolar’ and are partially right.

Feeling misunderstood and unappreciated is not uncommon for teens, but for me, It’s something that I’ve yet to get over and to move forward from. It’s a weakness of mine and is what knocks me down when I think I’m getting better. It’s something that people who have gotten close to me have thrown in my face to knock me down during disagreements. My current psychologist is teaching me how to not let it control me, but not to excuse the people who make me feel like this and quite honestly its been a hard concept for me to grasp.

The stigma around mental health has haunted me. The implicit and insensitive comments that I hear everyday are enough to trigger my inner demons. Hearing “she’s looks anorexic”, “I’m gonna kill myself” “she’s so bipolar” and the responses to questions about mental illnesses in Health class make me so upset, that our world is such an ignorant one.. I’ll stop at nothing to make sure that one day, I will be able to say “I go to therapy.” Without people thinking that I’m crazy. That I can one day eat three healthy meals a day and feel comfortable doing so. That I can one day say “I have a mental illness, but it doesn’t define me.” And I hope the people who are also suffering can find comfort and support.

Living with a mental illness has been the most difficult obstacle for me to overcome and quite honestly I don’t know where I’m going to go from here. But I know that writing about it will be good for me. Talking about it helps and reading from another perspective does benefit other people in a positive way. I’m hoping that someone will be reading this and will want to know more about me or my story. This will not be the last article I write for Stigma Fighters teen. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or requests for me to write about

Marisa


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Let’s Stop Bullying

Truth is, we will never to completely stop bullying. Not 100%, because it’s just our nature it seems. But we can help the children going through bullying, and help to prevent it as much as possible. And as a victim of bullying, these are the things I think will help.

  1. Teach them young.  Bullying affects people of all ages, and children feel things so intensely. I was bullied as a child and I never was taught how to deal or cope. This led to me developing bad habits at a young age because it was the only way I could get through it.
  2. Mindfulness. Let’s teach them to be aware of their feelings and how to express them. if they are able to better express their feelings, it could lead to conflict solving skills and prevent some bullying from starting or getting worse. Too often when kids are young, they are bullying because they don’t know the proper ways to express themselves. Such as, if a student is mad because a child wouldn’t play with them, they may result to name calling like “stupidhead”. May not seem like a big deal to us older people, but to a child, that is heartbreaking.
  3. Assemblies. Most of the bullying assemblies I have seen have been boring. That doesn’t catch a kids attention. When they reach middle school level, we need to begin talking about depression and anxiety, and how bullying can affect those two things. But make them interesting. Grab the kids attention. Maybe have some seniors who have faced bullying come talk about what they went through and how they got through it.
  4. Support groups. Because kids need a place they feel safe to talk about their feelings. And support groups in high schools could give them that. The bullies won’t care enough about it to show up, but the people needing the help probably would. And it would be a great chance for them to make friends with others who understand.


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Skeleton Girl

Middle school gym locker room, a place to laugh and joke with friends for some, and a torturous hell for others. A place where you are forced to shed the clothes that make you feel somewhat confident about yourself, while you stand in a room full of other adolescent girls and boys as they judge you based on your body that may or may not have hit puberty yet.

And this is where I became Skeleton Girl.

But this is to that girl who started the vicious cycle of my love hate relationship with my body.

Dear Girl With A Sharp Tongue,

I remember the first day we had to change. As I pulled my shirt off you exclaimed “I can see your ribs! You’re a skeleton girl. Put some meat on your bones.” That’s how it started.

The looks from the other girls made me uncomfortable as I fumbled to get my gym shirt on. After class the other girls rushed to change, but I didn’t mind being late if it meant they wouldn’t look at me with those eyes.

What brought tears to my eyes that day was that you were the one to start it. Little did you know at the time that I dreamed of being like you. I wanted to be one of the cool kids so that the pain would stop. Maybe everyone would love me more. And you, you were a cool kid who abused your power.

I watched you everyday. You’d pick at your lunch, make excuses as to why you wouldn’t eat. And in gym you’d call me those names.

I loathed my body but I watched as you picked on girls with more weight on their body. And I didn’t want to be like them. Clothes didn’t fit me they way they fit you, and you were quick to shove it in my face. Your curves were so beautiful, but you were quick to tell me that I couldn’t have curves like you. “You better stay small cause if you put on weight, it will be in all the wrong places.”.

But little did you know that everyday I watched you starve yourself. And little did I know your hate you placed on me was only envy.

– Love,
Skeleton Girl

I battled with anorexia silently for years.

In school we were taught about the obesity epidemic. But they didn’t think to teach us about the eating disorders that can lead to being under weight. They talked about how being overweight could be bad for your health, little did I know being too small would be bad too.

I feared gaining weight. Because so often I watched people shrug it off as a few pounds, ten pounds, then 50 pounds later they were wondering where the weight came from.

No, I refused to be that way.

I watched what I ate, and when I felt like I was gaining weight, no matter what the scales said, I’d skip meals. Sometimes went days without eating.

When the kids started calling me skeleton girl I felt lost. D***ed if you do and d***ed if you don’t. I watched them as they shamed a girl for being over weight yet here they are shaming me for being small. I began to want to change, but it was hard.

When your body adjusts to not eating, its hard to adjust it to eating again.

I dated a guy who like showing off how small I was. And any time I began to gain weight, he noticed. He would get so mad that he struck me a few times. It was fuel for the fire.

If you have read anything of mine, you know I began healing when I was 16. But I still have those days. Days where I look at myself and see “fat” I don’t like and spend 3 hours working out, and not eat a thing the entire day.

I don’t talk much about it to this day, because I am still sensitive about my weight. I don’t walk around in a bikini at the beach, not till I get to the water and can hide. I began getting more comfortable with tighter clothes, only for people to comment on seeing my ribs.

But I’m starting to accept myself. I’m starting to love myself. I even wear dresses to boost my confidence sometimes. And for that I’m proud. Small steps forward. Small steps to not being Skeleton Girl anymore.

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The Power of Lost Hope

People ask me all the time, “what made you decide to help suicidal and bullied kids?” Well…here’s the answer.

Suicide is a subject closer to me than a lot of my friends might think. I have experienced the loss of a few friends from this horrible pandemic.  My friend Jared and I created BeAVoiceForThem because we have lost 9 friends in total. I have lost 4 and he has lost 5.  I have had 3 friends attempt suicide and he has had 2. One day he called me up and asked me if I wanted to join him in a project. I pretty much couldn’t reject the offer. How could I? It was something near and dear to my heart. But the problem was, we were both in recovery.

I had been bullied in life on multiple occasions. There were almost too many reasons why. A few of them were that I was short, couldn’t read, and was shy.  From second to sixth grade I was bullied in some form almost every day. After a while those things take a toll on you, but somehow I persevered. Eventually one day I told the bullies to stop and miraculously they did. The damage had been done though. I had been kicked, punched, thrown down stairs, and threatened with knives.  I would go home and cut my thighs because I knew no one would see it. I wanted to be in control of my own pain. A nine year old should not be self-harming. Nobody should be self-harming, but nine, that’s too early. My school life was far from perfect, but my home life was great. That’s why I never gave up. My mom and dad have always been supportive of me, but I never told them about my experience with bullies. I figured it was my problem, not theirs.

My school life after sixth grade did a complete 180. I was completely happy with life. Everything was going well. When I reached High School, I was truly happy. I was able to be who I was and nobody seemed to care. There was a minor problem though. I witnessed kids being bullied all the time. I never did anything about it because I believed I couldn’t do anything about it. I was just one person, who was smaller than the rest of the guys. How could I possibly make a difference? I never did anything to help the victims. I was a bystander and because of that, I was just as much to blame as the bullies were at the time. I began to feel helpless, so I started cutting again. That lasted for only a couple months. I managed to stay clean for my sophomore year.

My junior year of High school was when I became depressed. I had lost my grandmother. She was the only one that really understood me. She cared about me so much. I truly loved her to the moon and back and a couple times more. I again felt helpless. What was I supposed to do? I had just lost the most important person in my life. Even if I wanted to talk to her again, I couldn’t.  Every day was a constant battle to get up, most days I didn’t want to get up.  My life was crumbling before my very eyes. Nobody seemed to notice.  I was silently crying out for help. I wasn’t eating as much, my grades were spiraling down, and I barely slept. My whole life was upside down. I felt like I had no control, so I began to cut again. I needed to feel something. I didn’t like feeling numb. It was the only way I could feel pain and know that I was in control. I felt invisible.

On January 24, 2011 I was going to end my life; however, I couldn’t do it. I looked at myself in the mirror. I tried to talk myself into it, but I also tried to talk myself out of it. I was in a battle with myself and I did not know how it was going to end. I eventually realized there was more to me. I could change the world for the better. I crumpled up the note and threw it in the back of the closet.

A while after that, I was at a book store when a miracle happened. A voice behind me yelled my name. It was a bully from the past. He was more than glad to see me, I on the other hand was not. But something was different about him. I hadn’t seen him in years, but his transformation was drastically different. He said to me “I have been wanting to see you again.” I didn’t know what to expect, especially with our past. Out of the blue he grabs me and hugs me. He starts to cry in the middle of the bookstore. He begins to apologize for everything he did in the past to me. It was truly a special moment. As he was about to let go, he whispered to me, “Please don’t hate me anymore.” How could I hate him as the glimmer in his eyes were a certain look of sorrow I had never seen before? I told him that I didn’t hate him, I only hated the stuff he did to me. I gave him my number as I was about to leave and I said “Jared, call me in a few weeks.”

We stayed in touch for about a month, talking about our troubles, self-harming, suicide attempts, and losses. It was great to be able to talk to someone about the pain I felt. We were doing so well, and then our conversations went silent. For a couple of months, Jared didn’t call. I was afraid to call. When he did finally call me back, it was to tell me that his close friend committed suicide. Jared was more determined than ever to make sure nobody felt that kind of pain again.  Jared helped me recover and I helped him recover. BeAVoiceForThem started and we have never looked back since.

So why did I become an advocate? I became an advocate because I want to bring more awareness to the subject of bullying and suicide, instead of letting it stay taboo. Each year over 150,000 young adults aged 10-24 receive medical care for self-inflicted wounds. Every 40 seconds, someone in the world commits suicide. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, heart disease, and lung disease, combined. Each day in the U.S there are an average of over 5,000 attempts by  grades 6-12. Do the math, by the end of the year all these numbers are unnecessary. They should not happen. And hopefully one day we will live in a world where the word suicide is a thing in the past. Spreading the word can be as simple as writing love on your wrist or actually speaking out to people about the signs of someone that maybe suicidal. To help fighting bullying we need to speak up and stop the bullies from victimizing kids. We need to bring attention to schools about bullying. Either way, every little bit helps because one person can spark something and create an extraordinary ripple effect. Act, speak, love, make a difference. I became an advocate because there simply is not another answer. We only have one life and it’s an extraordinary one. So why waste it? We need to end suicide and bullying. We have to raise our voices and be the generation of change. We cannot let our voices get lost in the echoes of society. No more being a bystander for me. I have chosen to stand up against bullying and suicide.

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Anthony is a 21 year old who attends college for Animal Behavior. He hopes to one day train animals to help people with disabilities. Anthony is also a Field Advocate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. In his spare time he writes stories and hangs out with his friends.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/BeAVoiceForThem?lang=en

https://twitter.com/therealahfb?lang=en

Email: beavoiceforthem@gmail.com